How I Turned My Hobby Blog Into a Money-Making Machine with Wholesome Yum

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In late 2015, Maya Krampf, software engineer, started Wholesome Yum as a hobby blog – a way to express her love for all things low carb.

How that blog has grown! Today Wholesome Yum is an online media business with over 4.5 million monthly visitors. In March of 2018, Maya left her job and, along with her team, now works full time on the blog and related projects.

Mind you, Maya had no idea that blogging would become her full-time career. She says of this happy surprise, “My degree is in computer science. Blogging is like a hybrid of art, science, and business (in no particular order), and it’s awesome to be able to do all of those.”

In large part, Maya credits Pinterest for the expansion of her blog monetization through ad revenue, affiliate programs, ebooks, brand sponsorships, and product offerings.

In under two years, her Pinterest presence grew from 200 Pinterest followers to over 100,000 followers (she’s now at over 175K). Pinterest is the number two driver of her website traffic, and was the first  source to start generating any traffic for her.

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But, How Did She Turn Her Hobby Blog Into a Thriving Business?

For anyone out there with a hobby blog looking for bit of inspiration and a LOT of practical tips, follow along as we dig a little deeper into Maya’s journey to success. Happily, she was eager to help!

Turning A Hobby Blog Into a Real Business Wasn’t Simple!

Maya was a real champ when I asked her to share her early challenges. Hers is a story many of us can relate to!

“I was so clueless when I began, haha. I didn’t know anything about blogging or Pinterest. I started out with kind of a “brute force” method of just posting as much as I could, both to the blog and Pinterest.

My biggest mistake was focusing on quantity instead of quality. My photos were terrible and my writing wasn’t helpful to readers, yet I was spending a ton of time trying to post daily. I burned myself out so badly, without any results to show for it.

Eventually, I slowed down and started focusing on quality, on improving my skills in photography, writing, and developing content specifically based on what I thought readers would want. This was when I started to see (slow) improvement in reach.”

What motivated you to start using Pinterest for your business?

First, I was a Pinterest user myself and wanted to reach more people like me. Over time, I realized what a powerful traffic driver it could be.

What exactly has Pinterest marketing done for your business?

“Pinterest drives approximately 30-35% of traffic to Wholesome Yum. And because Pinterest visitors are inclined to purchase, that means about 30-35% of our revenue comes from Pinterest. It’s a huge piece in our marketing plan!”

Maya also says, “Tailwind has been crucial in growing my Pinterest account, in terms of both time management and strategy.”  More on her time-saving, traffic-growing strategy in a moment.

Pinterest Marketing Lessons Learned Along the Way

If you could tell the 2015 Maya something you know now about Pinterest marketing, what would that be?

“Find out what your audience wants, and give it to them. If the people that see your Pins interact with them, Pinterest will reward that.”

Note: The best way to figure out what your audience wants is to look at your Pin Inspector in Tailwind and at your Pinterest analytics. Look at which Pins your audience finds engaging (by viewing clicks and saves). Whether that content is on your site or not, can you make more like it? Oh, and while you’re in Pin Inspector, you can schedule your most popular Pins to go out again! Grab a [sc name=”free trial of Tailwind for Pinterest”].

That second-most popular Pin in terms for Repins (Saves) is NOT my content. It’s time for me to write about Pinterest SEO!

What is the biggest mistake you see businesses make on Pinterest?

“They don’t collaborate with others on Group Boards enough, or the opposite, have too many boards with too many contributors. While the way Group Boards fit into Pinterest may have changed over time, I believe they are still an excellent way to grow a following and get more eyeballs on your Pins. The key is quality boards without too many contributors.

Also, focus on sharing your own content. Contrary to my experience on other platforms, I’ve found that sharing mostly my own content here has worked well.”

Tool Tip: Use Tailwind’s Board Insights and Pin Inspector to evaluate the performance of your Group Boards. If they are not performing for you, focus your time elsewhere. There is no universally-accepted “good” engagement or virality score. I tend to look at the average across my account and exit the ones that fall below that number.

How did Tailwind help?

“So many ways! Tailwind helps me organize and batch my pinning. Board lists let me drip new Pins out to various boards over several weeks. Tailwind Communities help me easily find quality content that fits my account, and they make pinning that content faster. Though I’d have to say the optimized schedule with SmartSchedule is my favorite feature because it means I can do Pinterest work in bulk. This also allows me to outsource some of my pinning while still sticking to the strategy I want.

Right now we manually reshare Pins and drop them into the queue, so I’m really excited about the upcoming SmartLoop to streamline that process!”

How do you determine which kinds of content work well on Pinterest?

“Test, test, and keep testing. What works well changes over time, but ultimately the content my audience wants on Pinterest is the same content they want everywhere else – just maybe formatted a bit differently.”

When I pressed for more, Maya said, “Though it’s ultimately the same content, the way I present it will be different depending on the platform. On Facebook and Instagram, people want to be personal and they engage with stories. On Pinterest they want to find what they are looking for in a visual way. For example, my Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream Recipe looks a bit different on Pinterest than it does on Facebook:”

Tool Tip: Create multiple Pins for each blog post you share to Pinterest. Use Tailwind’s Pin Inspector to see which version is performing best. Over time, you’ll learn more about what your audience will engage with.

What kind of content works well for you on Pinterest? Thinking in terms of subject, style, images, descriptions.

“Low carb and keto recipes and bright photos with rich descriptions. More recently, I have seen 600×900 Pins get better reach, consistent with the recommendations from Pinterest.”

I noticed that you take all of your own (gorgeous) images.  Do you have any easy-win tips for beginners who want to create professional-looking photos with their smartphones?

“Thank you so much! Definitely get a food photography book. It’s not a huge investment and almost everything I do now is just experience built on a book I purchased very early on. Lighting is the number one thing to learn, so start with that even if you’re shooting with your phone. You can see Maya’s other recommended resources here.”

Do you do any A/B testing of images and/or descriptions?

“Yes, primarily with images. I upload 2 different images for the same post, schedule them out (using Tailwind Board lists) slightly staggered by a few days to the same boards (to reduce different variables), and then after a few weeks check to see what did better. I can use this to test Pin sizes, styles, etc.”

Maya’s Pinterest Marketing Strategy Tips

Do you have any tips for saving time on Pinterest marketing?

“Get a routine down. Choose a schedule, including not only times but what types of Pins go where. Then, schedule the Pins to Tailwind in bulk to save time. Tailwind Communities save a lot of time for me – I like having a place to go for quality Pins.”

Is there anything you do on Pinterest that you think many aren’t doing? We’re asking you to give away your top-secret tips!

“I Pin much more than most people (100+ Pins per day), and I have a detailed spreadsheet of what goes where (and when). Boards that get more Repins (Saves) get more Pins from me. I also need to be careful not to break Group Board rules.

It goes against conventional recommendations that I have seen elsewhere of X Pins per day, but for my account, this has achieved great results in reach, follower growth, and website traffic.”

Pro Tip: Always test! What works for one blog may not work for another. And realize that you don’t HAVE to Pin that much in order to be successful.

Do you Pin other people’s content? If so, why?

“Yes, definitely! I love Tailwind Communities and supporting other bloggers. Unlike so many other businesses, we don’t need to see each other as competitors. By helping each other out, sharing each other’s content, exchanging tips, and collaborating, we all benefit! I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the kindness extended to me by other bloggers, especially early on. I am so grateful and happy to help others when I can. I believe we all lift each other up.”

How often do you look at analytics? What do you look for? How might you adjust based on what you find?

“Once a month. I look at Pinterest, Tailwind, and Google Analytics for what is working and what isn’t, and repin Pins that have been doing well. I’m looking forward to more detailed analytics down the line.”

What would you tell someone who says that their Pinterest traffic or reach has decreased?

“Look at the analytics available to you in Google, Pinterest, and Tailwind, and put your analytical hat on. Is it a normal seasonal change? Did you change your Pinning strategy or frequency? Are you noticing a difference in overall reach, or just click throughs? These answers can help identify what happened.”

What tools do you use to market on Pinterest? How did you choose? What are your favorite features?

“Tailwind! Tailwind Communities are my favorite feature, with scheduling and Board lists being a close second.”

Do you use Pinterest to help you plan your content creation?

“Sometimes. Mainly I create seasonal recipes that my audience wants, a bit ahead of the season when possible, to give them a chance to get traction on Pinterest.”

Tool Tip: Grab Pinterest’s Possibilities Planner

What’s your most popular Pin of all time (in terms of driving content or conversions)? Why do you think that it worked so well?

“A tie between 5-ingredient broccoli cheese soup and low carb fathead pizza crust. They are exactly the type of content my audience likes, and they were popular on social media across the board. I believe the key is catering to your audience no matter where they are spending their time.

I do feel compelled to point out that these were designed quite a while back and while the perfectionist in me wants to delete them and replace them with prettier Pins, they drive so much traffic that I can’t!” Oh, Maya, I feel you!

In Conclusion: How to turn YOUR blog into a money-making machine

Whether you’re looking to make your hobby blog into a full-time business as Maya did, or you just want a bit more traffic and attention for your content, do what Maya did!

  1. Use analytics to figure out what your audience wants from you on Pinterest and give them more of it!
  2. Create gorgeous images and test to find out what works best for your content and followers.
  3. Develop a strategy that works for you, but test and be willing to adjust as new recommendations and trends emerge.
  4. Use Tailwind to save time on Pinning and to find great content to share with Tailwind Communities.

Do you have more questions for Maya? Drop them in the comments below.

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